Transformers: Age of Extinction could easily be the best film in the series so far, even rivaling the Michael Bay’s first. The reviews from regular critics might be bent on hating Bay, but this film does a lot right story-wise.
This Transformers: Age of Extinction review contains major spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and plan to, you might want to read something else.
If you ignore the canon, this film actually appears to have a soul, and Optimus Prime shows a definite character arc. After what happened in Dark of the Moon, Prime starts out bitter and has given up on trying to save the humans. The down side to this is that it refers to an event that we never see, where an ambush by humans caused the Autobots to go into hiding. We certainly see the aftermath when KSI shows us a bunch of scrapped transformer bodies. As the movie progresses, we see Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) going out of his way to put himself in danger and show Optimus that some humans do care.
When we see Yeager attempting to fight Galvatron all by himself at the end of Transformers: Age of Extinction, we can sense the futility. Optimus Prime is moved enough by this act of bravery that he changes his mind and decides Earth is worth fighting for after all.
The new transformation sequence introduced by the new technology is a bit lazy though. While the classic version shows actual moving parts and keeps track of where they go, the new version reminded me of that scene in Revenge of the Fallen, with millions of generic parts rearranging into another form. It might be more challenging for the CG team, but visually it’s just lazy. Why can’t the new transformers created that way just turn into anything they want? Galvatron and Stinger could literally look like anything, and the inventors at KSI made a point of showing us that, even if it was clever product placement.
The sexism and racism of previous films were noticeably toned down this time, giving this Transformers: Age of Extinction review more of a positive light. There are still ridiculous robot models whose designs appear to have no reason other than to remind us of stereotypes (a retired U.S. war veteran and a Japanese swordsman). Old habits really do die hard, but at least they aren’t overly offensive like Michael Bay’s previous attempts.
There is even a believable character arc where Cade Yeager and his daughter (Nicola Peltz) start out on each other’s nerves, but by the end they both change for the better. Perhaps in Transformers 5 we’ll see if the Yeagers are able to use corporate funding to become a more financially productive family of successful inventors. They could end up funding Sparkplug’s garage as an homage to the comics, much like Optimus’ early form resembled the original Generation One model.
Lockdown being sort of a Boba Fett style villain was a nice touch, and a welcome change of pace from the Megatron (again) storyline.
As if to appease the critics, there was even a joke thrown in early on inside a movie theater where someone has some negative remarks about remakes and sequels and Hollywood’s obsession with them. It’s that kind of meta humor that gave Transformers: Age of Extinction an early boost. Michael Bay is obviously able to laugh at himself.
One thing Bay understood was the need to make the audience wait for what they came to see. We didn’t even see the Dinobots as characters until the end, and thankfully they didn’t say anything. That classic “Me Grimlock” line really got old fast in the cartoons. I just wish it didn’t look like all Optimus had to do was fight Grimlock for a few seconds before convincing him and his kind to join the Autobots. There was no explanation.
While Transformers: Age of Extinction still wasn’t quite perfect, it shows enough of a soul and a willingness to leave the right things behind that the next two movies could actually have more of an emotional impact.
[image via film.com]